Vascular disease covers a wide range of conditions related to the circulatory system – the arteries and veins that carry blood around your body.
September is Vascular Disease Awareness Month in the UK, helping to raise awareness of the risks and causes of vascular disease, and how they are managed and treated.
Types of vascular disease
There are many types of vascular disease affecting different areas of the circulatory system. Some of the most common and recognised include:
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) – a common condition where fatty deposits build up in the arteries that supply blood to the legs.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a blood clot in a vein in the legs, with many potential risk factors such as age, varicose veins, or sitting in a car or plane for long journeys.
- Pulmonary embolism – a blocked blood vessel in the lungs that can cause chest pains or difficulty breathing.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm – a bulge in the aorta, the main blood vessel that comes out of the heart and down your chest and abdomen
- Stroke – a loss of blood flow to the brain that can be very serious and lead to permanent damage
Causes of vascular disease
There are many different causes of vascular disease, with different risks and underlying issues behind the many different forms of vascular disease. Some causes are also still unknown, making them harder to protect against.
While the cause isn’t always clear, the most common causes for vascular disease include:
- Cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Some medicines
- Injuries or infections
Risk factors for vascular disease are also key, and include many more possibilities, including:
- Genetics and a family history of vascular disease
- Age (the risk naturally increases as you get older)
- sedentary lifestyle
Symptoms of vascular disease
The symptoms of vascular disease depend on the specific type of condition, and can range from sudden and severe to no symptoms at all.
Coronary heart disease (heart attack)
- Chest pain, or a tightness or heaviness in the chest
- Pain that spreads through the arms, shoulders, and neck
- Shortness of breath
Peripheral arterial disease
- Pain in the legs or buttocks
- Numbness or tingling in the legs
- Loss of leg hair, or thin and shiny skin on the legs and feet
- Cuts or injuries that heal slowly or not at all
Deep vein thrombosis
- Throbbing or cramping in the leg, usually one rather than both
- Swelling in one leg
- Warm, reddened, or dark skin around a painful area
- Sudden numbness on one side of the face or body
- Visible drooping of the face on one side
- Sudden confusion or difficulty talking
- Sudden dizziness, loss of mobility, or balance
Vascular disease treatment
How vascular disease is treated very much depends on the specific condition. It also depends on the severity of the condition and its ongoing prognosis. Treatments for vascular disease include:
- Medication such as blood thinners, blood pressure medication, and cholesterol reducing drugs.
- Surgery for serious heart conditions such as a heart bypass
- Non-surgical procedures such as stenting or an angioplasty
- Lifestyle changes to reduce risk, such as increasing exercise, quitting smoking, or adopting a nutritional plan to promote heart health
Vascular disease and cardiology at Ramsay Health Care
You can find a full range of cardiology treatment and care at your local Ramsay hospital, from screening and diagnosis to monitoring and advice, and more. To make an appointment or talk to us about our services, please do get in touch today, or find out more about cardiology at Ramsay.